3 years and 3 kids later - comeback complete in great company. Thank you to Madison and John for always believing I would swim, bike and run again.
My road back to triathlon has been a very long one. Over the last three years, I would often dream about triathlons as if they were distance memories of my former life. You know those classic dreams where you show up at school and forgot to study for the test. Well, I would have those dreams about triathlon - in my dreams, I signed up for a race and was there in the morning but forgot key equipment and the order of events - and it was all confusing and frustrating. In my dreams, I never even made it to the starting horn.
It was both motivating and challenging to watch everyone else in the social media space participate in my favorite sport while I was forced on the sidelines. In my mind, I would envision my return but the road seemed paved with so many obstacles, insecurities and concerns. Life just seemed easier 3 years ago.
If someone had told me that I would be doing this Pacific Grove Sprint Triathlon 6 weeks ago, I would have thought they were insane! I didn't even think I would even entertain the idea until the 2015 season. Remember I hadn't run in 2.5 years and did my first jog at the 6 week post-baby mark as well as my first road bike ride. I restarted swimming at the 5 week mark. So all of this doesn't make for much lead time for triathlon training. That being said, 2 weeks ago, I was feeling good and thinking that accomplishing a sprint might be possible. I decided to pseudo-commit and booked a hotel room for Pacific Grove but didn't register for the actual event, and got my P3 bike tuned up by Veloro Bicycles. Then I waited to see how everything folded. Life got really busy and crazy but all signs pointed me to do the race. So I packed up the van on Saturday afternoon and headed down to Monterey.
At registration, I ran into Susy from Affinity Multisport. 5 of us ladies met up for dinner at Passionfish which was a great way to enjoy the evening before the race. That night, I had another triathlon dream - in this one, I overslept and missed my alarm so I was racing to the event, forgot everything, etc. and like the previous dreams, never made it to the starting line. Luckily, since I have a 3 month old baby, waking up earlier can not be avoided, even when I am in a hotel room alone. So I was up without the alarm clock by 6AM and ready to head out.
Once I got to transition area, setting up everything came naturally. I've done it so many times before. I ran through my transition steps in my mind and checked the in's and out's and my rack location. I had debated whether or not to do the bike shoes clipped into the pedals. In the end, I decided to do it. Even though I hadn't practiced it more than once on Friday, it's more natural to me that trying to jog in full bike cleats.
With everything setup in transition, I headed down to the swim - my favorite part! The water was calm, minimal kelp and pretty warm all things considering, I think around 61 degrees. I started getting nervous, knowing that this was really going to happen. Once my age group (now the 35-39 ers) was called to the starting gate, reality really set it. I knew I would start in the front of the line since I highly dislike swimming over people. Count down from 10 and then we were off! I was suprised initially on how crowded the swim start feels in the first 30 sec - 2 minutes. I remembered to stay calm and the chaos would sort itself out, behind me, and that's what happened. I hadn't really practiced my open water sighting at all - in fact I had to watch You Tube videos the night before to remember proper sighting techniques. I focused more on swimming straight and right to the buoys. It was a short loop so it was over before I could even think about getting tired.
Next was the bike. I did ok with mounting the bike with the shoes clipped in but it did take me a minute or two to get the feet securely in and fastened. That's the practice element that will come back with time. Once the feet were in, I started hammering on the bike. I remember looking at the bike computer and it had only been 3 minutes and I was in the red heart rate zone. I knew I had to back off a little but since this is a sprint race and the run was going to be tough for me no matter what, I wanted to push it on the bike as much as possible. I kept pushing hard, remaining in the aero position the whole time except on the turns. I didn't think about it much but another factor that could thawrt my comeback would be a flat tire - I also watched videos on how to change a flat. Once I could see the transition area on the last loop, I knew I could walk the bike if needed so finishing the triathlon became a reality.
Now done with the bike, T2 was super quick, grabbed by running stuff and was off. I did think momentarily that what if a physical issue, like a severe cramp, prevented me for finishing this race. I quickly dropped that thought out of my mind. The good thing about having done so many triathlons before and never having that particular issue happened brought me confidence. I was suprised how heavy my legs felt after the bike and I worried that it was last like this for the whole run. Again, my past experience kicked in and I had confidence that the legs would adjust and they did.
As I had anticipated, I would have mnimal ability to control my heart rate on the run. Knowing it was a short run was the saving grace. I've been near red zone for a triathlon 10K before so 2 miles would be doable. Starting out on the first loop and hearing the music from the finishing gate and crowd really made me smile. I got through loop 1 and then loop 2 was even more exciting. Coming around the final corner, I saw that gate and it was everything I had pictured in my comeback day dreams. I always want that gate and want to run through it - and there it was and I was SO ready. I was so happy and relieved. I had made it. I am triathlete once again.
To make it even sweeter, I placed 3rd in my age group. Of course, I unknowingly left before the Awards ceremony so I missed my podium picture. All the more reason to return next year. :-)
I am eternally grateful for everyone for their support of me over the past 3 years. None of this would be possible without that. And I believe I must hold the unofficial course record for a female with a 3 month old baby. :-) :-)